Detroit Demonstration Against the Invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File.
Rumsfeld Resigns as Defense Secretary After Big Election Gains for Democrats
By DAVID STOUT
New York Times
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the hard-driving and super-confident Pentagon boss who came to symbolize President Bush’s controversial Iraq policy, is resigning, President Bush announced today.
Mr. Bush, appearing at the White House the day after the Republican Party suffered sweeping defeats in Tuesday’s midterm Congressional elections, said he and Mr. Rumsfeld had “a series of thoughtful conversations” and agreed that “the time is right for new leadership at the Pentagon.”
The president said he would nominate Robert Gates, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and now president of Texas A & M University, to replace Mr. Rumsfeld. Mr. Gates served under the first President George Bush and is closer to him than he is to the current president.
The president said that as the leader of the Republican Party, he bore the responsibility for its losses on Tuesday. The Democrats picked up 27 seats and took control of the House, and so far it has gained five seats in the Senate.
Mr. Bush also emphasized today that he took full responsibility for the Iraq war, and he acknowledged that Americans are frustrated by the “lack of progress” in that country. But while praising Mr. Rumsfeld as “a superb leader in a time of change,” Mr. Bush said both he and the departing secretary recognized the “value of a fresh perspective.”
Only days ago, Mr. Bush had voiced confidence in Mr. Rumsfeld, as he had consistently done since the start of his presidency, in declaring that Mr. Rumsfeld was “here to stay.”
But Tuesday’s elections produced a furious reaction from the American public over a military campaign that has cost the lives of nearly 3,000 members of the armed forces and that many people of all political stripes have described as poorly managed.
Democrats responded instantly to the announcement. “If it were up to me, he would have been gone a long time ago,” Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin said.
“Yesterday’s election was a cry for change, and for the first time it looks like the president is listening,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, vowing to work with the new defense secretary on “an Iraq policy that is both strong and smart.”
Whether the president asked Mr. Rumsfeld to go, or whether Mr. Rumsfeld took the cue from the elections, was not immediately clear. But people who know the secretary have said he might step aside on his own if he concluded that he had become a liability, and there was no indication from Mr. Bush that he had tried to talk Mr. Rumsfeld out of leaving.
Democrats have accused Mr. Rumsfeld of ignoring the warnings of some generals that imposing a peace in Iraq would be harder and bloodier than just winning the war to topple Saddam Hussein. Several retired generals have said Mr. Rumsfeld should go.
As the months have dragged on since Mr. Hussein was overthrown, and Iraq has been plagued with sectarian violence, the Democrats have intensified their complaints. They have blamed Mr. Rumsfeld and his top aides not just for the loss of American lives but, in the Democrats’ view, lowering America’s stature in Europe and elsewhere around the world.
Given Mr. Rumsfeld’s sometimes frayed relationship with uniformed military leaders, Mr. Gates’s first job — assuming he is confirmed by the Senate — may be to re-establish a sense of trust and partnership between civilian leaders and career officers. And in addition to looking for a way ahead in Iraq, he will have to deal with the threats posed by Iran and North Korea.
Mr. Bush said Mr. Gates was an ideal choice to apply a new perspective to Iraq, since he has been an adviser to several presidents. Perhaps more important, Mr. Gates is a member of the bipartisan commission that has been studying the Iraq campaign with the possibility of charting a new direction.
That panel, formally the Iraq Study Group, is headed by James A. Baker III, who was secretary of state and a top adviser to the first President Bush, and Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana and co-chairman of the 9/11 commission.
Before the White House announcement, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, now the Democratic minority leader and perhaps the majority leader in the new Senate, said Mr. Bush should convene a bipartisan Iraq summit meeting with Congressional leaders.
“Yesterday’s message was clear: Americans want change,” Mr. Reid said.
While there may be adjustments in Iraq, Mr. Bush said America’s enemies should not mistake change for retreat. As for bringing American troops home, Mr. Bush said, “I want them to come home with victory.” By victory, he said again that he means a country that “governs itself, sustains itself and defends itself.”
The president praised Mr. Rumsfeld as a “patriot” who has served his country with “honor and distinction.”
Mr. Rumsfeld is in his mid-70’s, and by all accounts he has the drive and energy of many men decades younger. He served as defense secretary under President Gerald R. Ford in the mid-1970’s, and he made it clear when he joined the Bush administration in 2001 that he wanted to bring the vast Pentagon bureaucracy under control — a goal that has eluded many previous secretaries.
But he was damaged by predictions about the Iraq campaign that came to be seen as over-optimistic as the months dragged on and the deaths mounted. He was even accused occasionally of being unfeeling about deaths in wartime, even though he said often that he mourned every life lost.
Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.
November 8, 2006
World Sees Democrats' Win as Rejection of Bush
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 1:20 p.m. ET
TOKYO (AP) -- Democratic gains in Congress were seen around the world Wednesday as a rejection of the U.S. war in Iraq that led some observers to expect a reassessment of the American course there.
The shift in power also was seen as a signal in some capitals that the United States would put a greater emphasis on trade policy and human rights.
Many watching the election said the results were a significant blow to President Bush's presidency.
''Although his term will not end within the next year, I think Bush is already turning into a lame duck,'' Yuzo Yamamoto, 60, the manager of a Tokyo business consulting firm, said as Democrats won control of the House and challenged Republican dominance in the Senate in midterm elections Tuesday.
Outside observers saw the bloodshed in Iraq as the major driving force behind the Democrats' success.
''Voters have punished the Republicans. They are not happy with the way the leadership has handled the Iraq war,'' said Chandra Muzaffar, president of the Malaysia-based think-tank International Movement for a Just World.
Bush's foreign critics cheered in Vietnam, and in Muslim-dominated countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.
''The Republicans lost in the election because the American voters are now fed up and bored with the war,'' said Vitaya Wisetrat, a prominent, anti-American Muslim cleric in Thailand. ''The American people now realize that Bush is the big liar.''
Echoing the sentiment of many in Muslim countries, Indonesian lawmaker Ahmad Sumargono hoped that the results would prompt a reassessment of American policies in Iraq and elsewhere.
''I am optimistic that American people have now realized the mistakes made by Bush in foreign policy. We hope this leads to significant changes, especially toward the Middle East,'' he said.
Abdul Hamid Mubarez, an Afghan analyst and former deputy Afghan information and culture minister, said he hoped that Democratic victories would lead to more reconstruction money for his war-torn nation.
The prospect of a sudden change in American foreign policy could be troubling to U.S. allies in Asia -- such as Japan and Australia -- that have thrown their vocal support behind the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Some, however, doubted that there would be a major shift in Iraq, said Michael McKinley, a political science professor at the Australian National University.
''There would have been some concern in policy making circles here if the Democrats had said, 'We are definitely going to withdraw by Christmas,''' McKinley said. ''But they're not able to say that,'' he said.
''They will have concluded that it is unlikely to have radical significance in the area of U.S. foreign and strategic policy,'' he added.
U.S. policy on North Korea, which angered the world by testing a nuclear device on Oct. 9, is also high on the agenda in the region. Despite the test, Pyongyang has pledged to return to stalled six-nation talks on its weapons program.
While some in South Korea have speculated that a Democratic victory could erode Bush's hardline approach toward Pyongyang, others were skeptical.
Kim Tae-woo, a North Korea expert at the Seoul-based Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said Bush was unlikely to make radical changes in his policy in his final two years in office, particularly since the North was not a major campaign issue.
''Why should he change his policy line?'' Kim asked, referring to Bush. ''The Bush administration will feel no need for changes in the six-party talks.''
Many around the world hoping for other changes in American policy said they hoped the election would be a catalyst.
In China, however, the resurgence of the Democrats raised fears of renewed U.S. concern over human rights and trade and labor issues. China's surging economy has a massive trade surplus with the United States.
''The Democratic Party ... will protect the interests of small and medium American enterprises and labor and that could produce an impact on China-U.S. trade relations,'' Zhang Guoqing of the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report on Sina.com, one of China's most popular Internet portals.
In Japan, the government said the results would not change Tokyo's warm ties with Washington.
But the shift in favor of the Democrats was expected to complicate Japan's diplomatic approach to the U.S. For years, the Japanese have been able to successfully woo Bush's White House, knowing that the Republican Congress would largely follow its lead.
Now that calculus would have to change, said Tsuneo Watanabe, senior fellow at Mitsui Global Strategic Studies Institute in Tokyo.
''Now it's time for the Japanese, the embassy in Washington, to spend more time on Congress,'' he said.